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Old 04-14-2009, 09:55 PM   This thread is in the EcoModder Project Library | #1 (permalink)
Left Lane Ecodriver
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Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Buffalo, NY, USA
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Project: Zombie Insight (2000 Honda)

Restoring and ecomodding a salvaged 2000 Honda Insight


I needed a fuel economy project car. I decided against the Saturn S-series and the Civic, since they'd always leave me wanting more. I have purchased a wrecked 2000 Honda Insight, and I intend to get it back on the road, then improve it beyond the stock condition. By ecomodding and ecodriving, I hope to get 70mpg average (which includes winter) and a 100mpg (>1000 mile) tank. It may be unachievable, but I want to get those numbers while exceeding the speed limit.


I've wanted a first-gen Honda Insight since before I bought my first car (five years ago). It's not just the fuel economy that's attractive. I love the way the engineers were apparently set loose and told not to worry overly about cost or whether Everyman would buy one. It's fuel-sipping halo car.

I appreciate the extreme compromises that were made in the name of fuel economy. The aluminium frame is far more expensive than steel, yet it saves only a little bit of gas. The aerodynamic back means you only have two seats, and the IMA batteries gobble up your storage space. 65HP and LRR tires means this is no sports car.

But look at all the superlatives: Best EPA fuel economy ever. Lowest BSFC that I know of, with a 41% thermodynamic efficiency. Lowest CdA of any car you could ever buy. Smallest engine since the 1988 Metro (at least it was until the Smart came along).

I want one. Since good ones with high mileage go for >$6000, I bought a wreck:

$1725 on eBay. It's a 2000, with the 5mt, no A/C, with 46000 miles on it. It runs and drives, but it has no radiator, and the oil pan is cracked and leaks. It's somewhat crazy to buy a wreck on eBay, but even worse: I had never sat in an Insight before, and I still have yet to drive one outside of first gear.

Before I bought it, I went to the dealer and priced out all the parts I would need, and figured that would be $4000, list. Well, nobody pays list price for parts, and I figured I could buy most of them used, or fabricate replacement parts to save a couple grand.

Here's a closeup of the damage:

The oil pan is also the bottom half of the engine block, and mine has suffered blunt trauma:

The reason this car hasn't already been made into beer cans, is the crumple zones bolt on to the part of the frame that survives a crash of this speed. I see no evidence of the frame being bent. I was able to obtain used frame extensions and bumper rebar for $200 shipped. Radiator + cooling fan would be $200, a new oil pan is $270, replacements for the deployed SRS components are $775. So I'm $3400 into the project, and once the parts come in, the car will only be a few zipties short of being a fully-functional, roadworthy zombie. I say zombie because the plastic fenders are slightly smashed, there are many small scratches, the bumper cover is dead, the hood is wrinkled, and the radiator will be held on by zipties.

At that point, I'll pay the State of New York an exorbinant amount of money, and hopefully get plates put on it. Once the vehicle is on the road, the ecomodding can begin.

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